Hot Spots travel

24 Hours in Las Vegas

I’m almost 30. T-H-I-R-T-Y. That statement, along with some unexpected time off, spurred a last minute getaway to Las Vegas.

Hot Spots

3-Day Weekend Travel: Milwaukee, WI

From one beer town to another, Milwaukee has a special feel about it. Whether it’s the beauty of being along Lake Michigan or the unavoidable whiff of hops in the air, the city brings about a different kind of adventure. If you ask my best friend, Jackie, it brings fond memories of college at Marquette University – hopping on the LIMO to take young students into the city, followed by a 3am trip to the Dogg Haus. For me, it echoes a 3-day weekend full of laughs, beer and videos that shall remain locked in a shared iCloud album.

Brew City is just a stone’s throw from the Chicago area, and a 6-hour drive from St. Louis. While bitter cold in the winter, summers are perfect for outdoor activities, including boating on Lake Michigan. If you find yourself heading to MKE, I recommend the following:

STAYAloft Milwaukee Downtown

Have you stayed at an Aloft hotel before? This modern concept from SPG is super fun – think bright colors, open concepts and funky lighting. What’s great about this location in particular is that you are in walking distance from Milwaukee’s Public Market, which is filled with restaurants and shops to wander through.  Plus, if you have a late night craving for corn beef and cabbage (or Guinness), Trinity, a trio of Irish pubs, is just across the bridge.

EATCheese curds

Ever wonder why Green Bay Packer fans wear cheeseheads? Wisconsin ranks 4th in the WORLD in cheese production. You’ll even catch a glimpse of the Mars Cheese Castle when driving in from Chicago. Nearly every restaurant in the city features cheese curds, an early step in the cheese making process. Personally, I prefer them fried (because everything is better fried!) but you can eat them fresh as well.


DOBrewery Tours

What, you think it’s called Beer City for nothing? The pride and joy of Milwaukee is Miller, however, I highly recommend Lakefront Brewery and Milwaukee Brewing Company. While the first features gorgeous views of the Milwaukee River, you can enjoy all-you-can-drink brews for two hours at the latter.

Have you traveled to Milwaukee in the past? What are your recommendations? Let me know in the comment section below! 

Hot Spots

Visit: Hermann Hill Vineyard Inn, Cottages & Spa (+ recipe!)

Ever feel like you need to get away? Life has gotten the best of me lately, so I was well-aware I needed a break. Cue Hermann Hill Vineyard Inn, Cottages and Spa.

Hermann, MO, located about 90 minutes from Saint Louis, is famous for the Hermann Wine Trail, a stretch of highway featuring wineries, breweries and distilleries. I’ve heard great things about them all, but the gem of the city is Hermann Hill.

When you check into the Inn, you’ll find yourself with the one-on-one service you’d expect to see in a quaint town. The Inn directors make sure you’re aware of all of the amenities (you know, fresh soup in the afternoon, a Margarita bar, homemade pizza, turn down service…), along with welcoming you to your room with a tray of wine, cheese, fresh baked bread and grapes.

My room, the Port, overlooked the small vineyard, and featured a fireplace, jacuzzi tub and steam shower with a rainforest head. Can you see why I didn’t leave the room?

If the coziness of the room isn’t enough for you, maybe the hand delivered, homemade cookies, ice cream and famous raspberry port sauce will be.

Still not convinced? Wait until you wake up to breakfast in bed. Pick from six delicious, fresh options the night before to be delivered to your room between 9-10. I got the savory scrambled egg casserole with potatoes and an orange marmalade muffin, and holy cow was it delicious. PLUS – the recipe for these amazing orange marmalade muffins is below!

It wouldn’t be a true getaway without a visit to the spa. I enjoyed a 60 minute massage and 30 minute facial (a first!) after checking out. It’s a bit pricey, but sometimes you have to just treat yo’ self.

Every single person needs to take 24 hours to themselves and visit Hermann Hill. Then, come back with your man. Or your girlfriends. Or your dog, because they’re welcome, too!

Orange Marmalade Muffins (via Hermann Hill Inn & Village)

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 c. (16oz) dairy sour cream
  • 1/2 c. orange marmalade
  • 2-1/2 tbsp. Butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla

Mix flour, baking powder and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Combine eggs, sour cream, orange marmalade, butter and vanilla. Pour egg mixture over flour mixture; mix until smooth. Spoon batter into well-greased 3-inch muffin cups, filling cups 2/3 full. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from pan. Yield: 2 to 2 1/2 dozen muffins.

Hot Spots

SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove, Orlando’s Hidden Gem

When you think of Orlando, what comes to mind? If you answered, “Theme Parks,” you are not alone. With four Disney parks, two Universal parks and SeaWorld, it’s easy to think of Orlando as the theme park capital of the world. If you’ve ever visited all seven theme parks, you know how stressful of a trip it can be.

Over Thanksgiving, my in-law’s took my husband and I, my sister-in-law, her boyfriend, and my brother-in-law to Orlando for a week of family fun. In addition to the seven theme parks, we made reservations to visit SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive day resort featuring incredible animal encounters. The biggest selling point? Only 1,000 reservations could be made per day.

Prior to Discovery Cove, the family visited SeaWorld, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. The crowds at SeaWorld were manageable, but once we walked into Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, we knew we had met our match. No amount of butterbeer can make up for hour-long ride waits, shoulder-to-shoulder pathways and the unmistakable cry of an angry child.

With approximately 50,000 steps under our belt, we pulled into Discovery Cove. Much to our surprise, there was no line to park, let alone attendants asking for $20 per car. We walked straight up to a tiki hut-style building, and we’re greeted immediately. I felt as though we had been transported to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.

After getting our day passes and petting the resident sloth, we got a tour of the facilities followed by breakfast. Our dolphin encounter time was set for 11:30am, so we had plenty of time to explore the oasis in front of us. All we had to do was get our wetsuits…

If you have any curve on your body – hips, butt, chest – do not under any circumstance pick up a wet suit. It was about 65 degrees to start the day at Discovery Cove, so I felt a wet suit would be a better option than throwing a fitted life jacket over my one-piece. Hint: It was not. After the 15 minute struggle to get the wetsuit onto my body, I stepped out of the bathroom with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to discover we had them on backwards. I am not exaggerating when I say it took all three of us to peel my wetsuit back off.

Once dressed for the day, we grabbed our snorkels and headed off into the saltwater reef pool. This incredible coral reef includes fish of all shapes and sizes, along with a few sting rays who are not afraid to swim right up next to you. The view is incredible.

For our dolphin encounter, our group of seven was paired up with another couple and two trainers who took us out into the middle pool to meet our dolphin, LaToya. At any given time, there are nearly 50 dolphins in the encounter, each separated into one of three family groups, designed to mimic the same type of relationships they’d experience in the ocean. Each person petted, treated, and even rode with LaToya across the water, while photographers and videographers captured every moment (for a pretty penny – but also completely worth it).

Following our dolphin encounter, we ate lunch, laid around the beach and wandered through the lazy river, which, if you don’t prepare with a buoy, is not so lazy (spanning over a mile). Looking back, it was everyone’s favorite part of the trip (including this Disney-loving princess!)

Each all-inclusive package (starting at $229/person) includes unlimited access to SeaWorld for 14 days, breakfast and lunch, a 30-minute dolphin experience, and parking. Compared with ticket prices for the other Orlando options, the price is well worth the relaxation.

Have you heard of Discovery Cove? What is your favorite part of an Orlando vacation? Let me know! 


Hot Spots

What to Eat: Nashville

Southern cooking, am I right? I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to visit Nashville, and each time I return home with a new restaurant to brag about. I can honestly say I have never had bad food in Music City, but if you’re limited on time, I’d recommend the following:

Kitchen Notes

That’s right, biscuits. Funny story – the first time I stayed at the Omni, I walked into my room with this video playing, along with a “Welcome to the Omni, Ashley” note on the screen. I love Brett Eldredge, so I was glad to see it…until 45 minutes went by, and I realized I didn’t have a remote to turn it off. Luckily, Brett was right – the biscuit bar at Kitchen Notes is to die for. If you’re staying downtown, walk on over and give it a try – it blows Biscuit Love out of the water.

Acme Seed & Feed

Acme Seed & Feed is home to more than just amazing southern food – Acme Radio broadcasts live from the first floor of the venue. From a food standpoint, the “Rule The Roost” will make you wonder why hot chicken isn’t available in every Cracker Barrel in America. Honestly, I was halfway through the large chicken breast before I even considered taking a picture, and immediately decided I’d rather keep eating. Plus, if you’re not in the mood for traditional southern fare, they have a sushi bar upstairs.

The Stillery

The Stillery

I could do an entire post on what to drink in which bar, but the mason jar cocktails at The Stillery make it worth the stop. Add on delicious appetizers (the deviled eggs have a kick of sriracha to them!) and your choice of hot chicken meals (salad, pizza, mac & cheese), and you’ve got yourself a perfect downtown spot for lunch or dinner.


Step out of the honky tonks and into a classic 50s bar with Merchants. This spot has a casual feel downstairs with amazing fried green tomatoes and custom-made cocktails, while the upstairs is a more formal affair. 

Martin’s BBQ


When you hear BBQ, you probably think of Memphis or Kansas City, but I’m here to tell you that Martin’s BBQ will put Nashville on the map. There are two locations – one downtown across from the Omni hotel, and one in Belmont. I visited the original in Belmont, and have to say, it’s worth the drive through some of Nashville’s cutest neighborhoods. Mac & cheese lovers, choose different side – it’s boxed. But, you can skip sides all together, because the Brisket Tacos are delicious and filling.

The Southern

The Southern is the place you take your clients, in-laws and others you’re looking to impress. The food, while pricey, is delicious. I’ve also heard fantastic things about their brunch!

Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant

Puckett's Grocery

Mini chicken and waffles + biscuits and gravy make Puckett’s a match made in Southern brunch heaven. Don’t skip the hashbrown casserole! They’re on my list for lunch and dinner next time – if you beat me to it, let me know how it is!

Bakersfield Tacos

I almost skipped this, as they have locations in Charlotte, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, but it’s such a great break in your week of fried Southern fare. Even if you just stop by for the Spicy Margarita and queso, it’s worth the trip.

Did I miss any hot spots in Nashville? Leave a comment with your favorite local fare!